As a metal guy myself, I thought I’d go a bit off centre and sink my teeth into the second Nightmen LP Can’t Avoid Success. Whilst it is quite a shock to flip between this and Napalm Death, I’ll cut to the chase and say I’ve become rather fond of this. Having been described as “sugary sweet power pop” and “60’s garage influenced punk”, it would not be out of place on the set of Grease. With only two songs over the three-minute mark it whizzes it’s way through. For a lot of the songs it’s a case of “Play the chorus and get the fuck out” but this is just another way it substantiates the punk element running through the tracks, not to mention the hardcore element of having an opening track just over a minute.
On first listen, it can’t help but blend into one and proves without any confusion that this is no reinvention of their throwback sound. Obviously though, I didn’t just give it the one listen. After spending a little over two weeks with the album, this is what I made of it.
“Over You” opens the record at a propellant, rollicking pace reminiscent of the first wave of 70s punk bands with a happy-go-lucky attitude paralleling that of The Damned’s 1976 hit “New Rose”. In fact, Can’t Avoid Success wouldn’t be out of place in that scene either! Following the opener is “Velvet Curtains” which unfortunately boasts little but an infectious guitar groove. It doesn’t occur often on the album that a song slips off from the others, “Velvet Curtains” does which is a shame after a ripping opener but that is no reason to be disheartened. The rather appropriately titled “City of Fun” picks up the pace and takes the notch up slightly, boasting a fun singalong and shows off Nightmen’s knack for vocal hooks.
Harking back to the early punk movement again is “Why_(tonight)” with a charged, aptly distorted guitar riff and copious energy leading into an abrupt conclusion. “Summer Shakes” is another track like “Velvet Curtains” that isn’t quite on par as the rest of the work. Other than having a dreamy quality it isn’t revisited often. “Be My World” on the other hand is a different story. The brooding and sombre quality of this track is unrivaled on the album that leads into my personal favourite song; “Ahahahah (oh no)”. This one-two punch of “Be My World” and “Ahahahah (oh no)” is the focal point of the record and rightfully so. Every time they go into the chorus of the latter it feels triumphant, like they’re really bringing it home. This is where they own it. It’s like some weird guilty pleasure I really can’t explain. Having a place on all Nightmen sets for years to come, this is what I feel the band is about and it really captures the hopeless yet content ethos of the record.
“Suiting Lies” follows, hardly leaving the bouncy, vibrato riff and feels like a filler but at little over a minute it kind of goes unnoticed. Home to my favourite guitar playing on the album is “Summer Moon”, feeding into the final two tracks of the LP. “Too Late, Wild Heart” is absolutely captivating, drawing you in with a heartfelt crescendo of despair and regret reflected in the remorseful guitar tone and a forlorn vocal effort tugging at the heartstrings. “I Will Be Fine” ends the record, bringing the album round in full circle in a way that makes it really feel like a full set of work. In a really weirdly cool way Can’t Avoid Success, possibly unintentionally spells a narrative from the optimistic “Over You” through the desperate “Ahahahah (oh no)” and “Too Late, Wild Heart” to the relatively indifferent “I Will Be Fine”, displaying the stages of denial, realisation/regret and acceptance perfectly. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this or perhaps it was unintentional but if purposeful then Can’t Avoid Success is a success in itself. In a world of often bland and uninspired craft, Nightmen have come through with an incredibly artful body of work despite not being wholly original musically.
As far as this kind of throwback music goes, there is certainly an audience. You’ve only got to look at the likes of Airbourne and Steel Panther to see that. Whether this kind of music can ever reach that level is doubtable although there is a case and credit to the LP’s artistic success. Despite a few dud tracks, the album is totally inspired and as people may know about me, I’m a sucker for concept records that go above and beyond a collection of songs. Can’t Avoid Success goes above and beyond overtly obvious concept records such as Mastodon’s Leviathan or Rush’s 2112 in my opinion (not that I don’t love those records!) as it’s subtle, referring to inner struggles shared by everyone. Overall this is a deeply human album with an impressive few songs to say the least.
Can’t Avoid Success is out now